Book Review: Leadership Is Language - Capt Marquet

The thing is that each crewmember on the ship or bridge team wants to optimize his/her own situation.

When I was C/M I had a captain that would take the current surface forecast and then he would explain to me how he thought the weather systems were going to behave in the future.

So we’d be at the chart table and he’d be moving his hands around over the current surface analysis weather fax, this low is going to go here, this front there, this high pressure will do this etc.

Then he’d ask me what I thought? Well what I thought was we shouldn’t be doing this at all but we need to use more methodical methods, using the upper air charts, the forecasts etc.

Furthermore I thought that the captain had no idea what he was talking about.

However I need to optimize my own situation and obviously I can’t say that. And so in this case my best move is make some noncommittal noise and change the subject. If the stakes are not high enough then it’s not worth the time and effort and the possible resultant bad feelings that would result in trying to convince the captain he’s doing it wrong.

In essence if information about the weather (or other types of information) and the way the bridge crew understands it is thought of as an information system then it’s apparent that it’s in the captain’s interest to optimize that system.

So that’s what this book is about, how to optimize the way the crew deals with information about the environment and deciding how to respond.

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Sounds like you had good coping skills. Ignore the small stuff, but speak up when the shit don’t look right. Your voice/opinion carries a bit more weight.

There are two chapters in this book that use the language the captain and crew of the El Faro used as an example, Chapter One show how the captain used language to control and limit feedback from the crew.

For example the section in Chapter one “The Language of Invulnerability” From the book

"He (the captain) mocked novice mariners willing to deviate for “every single weather pattern.” “Oh No no no. we no gunna turn around - we’re not gunna turn around”

Later when the captain leaves the bridge he tell the third mate not to hesitate to change course or call the captain. A lot of working mariners likely have heard similar and know when it is insincere.

From the book:

Understanding why that advice is ineffective is critical to understanding leadership. We tend to focus on what other should do - for example encouraging them to speak up even when we have demonstrated a reluctance to listen.